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French for Children, Primer A Review by Debra Brinkman

Joshua Kraut with David Spieser, PhD
Classical Academic Press
2151 Market Street
Camp Hill, PA 17011

Classical Academic Press is well known for their high-quality materials, such as Latin for Children that makes learning Latin accessible (and fun!) for elementary ages. French for Children aims to do the same thing for the French language, and it succeeds.

The French for Children Primer A Program includes everything you’ll need to get started, even if you don’t speak French. The set sells for $89.95, and includes a worktext, an answer key, and a DVD and CD set. The components are also available separately. Additional workbooks, the only consumable in the program, can be purchased for $22.95.

The workbook contains all of the teaching materials in written form, plus the worksheets, quizzes, vocabulary lists, and so much more. The answer key includes copies of the student pages that require answers with the answers added in. This confused me at first, as you open it up to page 20, followed by pages 29-34, then pages 42-45, and so on.

The DVD and CD set includes seven DVDs that teach through the chapters. This video teaching covers the material found in the workbook, but you can hear and see words being spoken by a real person. As I have never taken any French, I cannot imagine doing this course without the DVDs. This set also includes a CD containing recordings of all of the chants, vocabulary lists, and everything else you might want to hear.

There are two suggested schedules. One is for working through each chapter in a week; the other is for taking two weeks per chapter, except review chapters. We chose the biweekly schedule, which means this course would last a standard academic year, or 30 weeks. This seems perfect for us, and the pacing allows plenty of time to practice.

I think the chapter per week schedule would be great with an older child, and could see using this in middle school before tackling high school French. This schedule involves three 30-minutes sessions per week, and two that are closer to an hour.

Using the biweekly schedule, you have seven class periods over the two weeks, which means you don’t have to use it every day. The class periods are manageable, with all but the second one expected to take about a half hour. The second class is where you watch the video, and each video is 45-60 minutes long. Obviously, that makes that class period longer.

A basic outline of each lesson, as we are doing it, follows. Note that most of the items listed as “Day #” are what is suggested in the curriculum. The “In between day” items are either where I stretched the pencil-work over a couple days, or repeated things.

  1. Day 1: Listen to the story, and go over the new vocabulary and grammar with the audio. Watch the beginning of the DVD lesson, and then revisit the opening story.
  2. Day 2: Do the grammar chant and vocabulary and watch the entire DVD lesson.
  3. (In between day): Do the grammar chant and vocabulary, and listen to the story.
  4. Day 3: Grammar chant and vocabulary. Go over the grammar section in the book, and listen to the story again. Do the grammar worksheet. End with the grammar chant.
  5. Day 4: Do the chants and complete at least half of the additional worksheets.
  6. (In between day): Do the chants and finish all worksheets.
  7. Day 5: Review the worksheet, play vocabulary games, get ready for the quiz.
  8. (In between day): Do the chants and watch the DVD again.
  9. Day 6: Take the quiz.
  10. Day 7: Review the quiz. Go back through the story again, discussing it and taking parts to read it ourselves.

That does vary some, but we try not to take any weekdays entirely off, so we at least do the chants and vocabulary during in-between days. Re-watching the DVD is something my daughter wants to do, so I did add it into our planned schedule. If French was a language I was at all familiar with, I might not do quite so much re-listening and re-watching, as I’d be able to just naturally add some review into our normal daily conversation.

This approach works so well. My daughter loves the DVD lessons especially, and Joshua Kraut does a fantastic job of weaving the French into his teaching, with extra words or phrases that aren’t part of that chapter. It feels like a bit of a bonus! He is very personable, and he really makes you feel like he is talking to you, not to the cameraman.

My only complaint about the materials is that I really wish some of the introductory sections of the workbook was also included in the Answer Key. I’d particularly like to see the Table of Contents (so I’d know what is being covered in each lesson), the CD Track & Audio File Information (to help me find the right track), and the Suggested Schedule section. I confess: I ended up photocopying those pages from the Student Book and clipping them into the Answer Key, so I have ready access to those six pages.

I’ll admit that the idea of teaching French intimidated me. French for Children makes this something I can actually do. Maybe not with a lot of confidence, but as we work through the material, Joshua’s engaging style is making it so that I’m no longer afraid of French. My daughter is learning and enjoying it, and the fact that she asks to rewatch the lessons says so much.

This is a product I’d highly recommend to students 4th grade and up, and I can see it working well for 2nd-3rd graders who are either highly motivated or who have some familiarity with French already. The video component makes this easy to implement.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, Schoolhouse Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, May, 2016